“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen is a terrific number near the end of the show. Gold Mylar curtains, a small gold platform and multi-colored confetti complement Ms. Barnes and Ms. Bass’ exhilarating movements sometimes while marching with a baton.
“I Melt With You” by Modern English is the opening number which attempts arch humor. Barnes and Bass are on treadmills wearing white satin robes, furiously running, gesticulating and mugging. It strives for laughs which don’t really occur.
In between there’s variable sequences set to Louis Prima’s “Oh Marie,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’” and opera, classical, and country and western selections, with Jerry Lee Lewis tossed in.
Barnes’ choreography is a delightful blend of ballet, modern dance and stylized movement. She and Bass are highly skilled and have a great chemistry together that recalls that of an accomplished comedy team with flashes of dramatic depth.
When the audience enters, the pleasantly nerdy Robert Saenz de Viteri is onstage and greets the audience. He asks them who wants to be interviewed and goes over to those who agree for a private chat. Later on de Viteri is up at a control station and interrupts the show by reciting extracts from these interviews and also playing recorded portions of supposedly pre-recorded interviews. De Viteri periodically announces how much time has elapsed, “Six minutes into the show…” It’s like a wan spoof of Howard Cosell presiding over a sporting event.
In the middle of the presentation, there’s audience participation. Everyone is coerced to stand and do stretches and athletic exercises. One member is compelled to read a lengthy, faux high school competition-style script.
These drawn out performance art tangents lamentably distract from the entertaining musical numbers. Barnes, Bass and de Viteri created the show and these labored sports motif asides are clearly what they intended.
Flowing black slacks, white tank tops, black blazers, red carnations, white feathered headdresses and black bowler hats are the main elements of Kelly Hanson’s alluring costume design. Ms. Hanson’s scenic design is equally striking. It’s a nostalgic recreation of a vaudeville venue with brown curtains with gold tassels, vintage floor lamps, a lighted archway à la Gypsy, for “Rose’s Turn,” and a weathered sign stating “One Night Only.”
Jane Cox’s skilled lighting design is mostly crisp brightness and fluctuates accordingly to moods of the various sequences.
Monica Bill Barnes founded the acclaimed dance group, the Monica Bill Barnes & Company in 1997, and is its Artistic Director. Anna Bass has been with the company for 15 years, and is its Associate Artistic Director.
Fitfully engaging, One Night Only (running as long as we can) would benefit from more dance and less shtick.
One Night Only (running as long as we can) (through October 8, 2017)
WP Theater in association with New Neighborhood
WP Theater, 2162 Broadway, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866 811-4111 or visit http://www.wptheater.orgAnn
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission